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Israel allows cement shipments for Gaza brick factories

July 26, 2016 10:16 P.M. (Updated: July 27, 2016 5:06 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- Israel has reportedly agreed to allow cement imports to supply brick factories in the besieged Gaza Strip, a union official told Ma’an on Tuesday, following a more than three-month ban on cement imports for the private sector in the small Palestinian territory.

Ali al-Hayik, who chairs Gaza’s union of workers in the construction industry, told Ma’an that cement would be shipped into the besieged coastal enclave on Wednesdays, highlighting that brick factories in the Gaza Strip have been unable to produce bricks for the last three months.

Al-Hayik explained that certain quantities of cement have been allowed to enter the small Palestinian territory since September 2014, when UN’s Middle East envoy announced a UN mechanism, referred to as the “Serry Plan”, to assist with reconstruction efforts after Israel's 2014 offensive on Gaza that left thousands of Palestinians homeless.

However, the entrance of cement to the private sector was banned on April 3, following the discovery of a tunnel passing from the Gaza Strip into Israel -- the first to be found since Israel's military offensive on the coastal enclave in 2014 -- and accused Hamas of diverting construction materials from its intended legitimate beneficiaries.

Some 80 truckloads of cement have been allowed into the Gaza Strip on a daily basis, according to al-Hayik. However, he highlighted that the amount was far below the needed supplies for the 1.8 million Palestinians living under a near decade long Israeli-imposed siege.

Al-Hayik added that the construction union contacted the Palestinian committee of civil affairs to request assistance in creating an agreement with Israeli authorities to allow 120 truckloads of cement every day into Gaza, which was part of the original plan of the UN’s Serry reconstruction mechanism.

The cement restrictions are part of Israel's broader siege on the Gaza Strip, which has been under a severe economic blockade imposed by Israel since 2006. The blockade has led to frequent humanitarian crises for Gazans, and the United Nations and various human rights groups have repeatedly called on Israel to lift it.
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